The Mills and the Bike Shop collaborate to help Haitians

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by Jeff Mills 

January 12th of the this new year marks the second anniversary of a devastating earthquake that struck southern Haiti and left 316 000 dead, 300 000 injured, and 1 000 000 homeless. The entire country was thrown into a state of despair. Although centred near Port au Prince, communities throughout Haiti were affected, and a shockwave of concern reverberated around the world.

Here in Mississippi Mills, concerned volunteers rallied by hosting a benefit concert, Haiti SOS. Student and adult amateur and professional dancers and musicians performed, with then mayor

Dieudonne organized the construction of an orphanage, Centre Vie, to house and support the displaced children who landed at her door. A sponsorship program was created, and these children are now being well cared for and are attending school. To sponsor a child or to find out more, contact Breanna Bedor at First Baptist Church, 73 Beckwith St. North, Smiths Falls, Ont. K7A 2B6.

Focus on Development continues to help in Haiti. With the generous help of local bike shop owner, Bill Barrie, a Focus on Development “Bikes for Haiti” program is now in its fourth year. Recognizing bicycles as efficient, affordable, and environmentally sustainable means of transportation for nurses, teachers, farmers, students, families, and others, we started shipping bicycles to Haiti. We collected donated bikes that Bill in turn refurbished with new bearings, chains, tires, and seats before shipping them directly to Haiti. Learning as we go, we no longer ship bikes to Haiti. The actual financial and environmental costs of shipping are too great, so we “shifted gears!”

Bill continues to refurbish and sell donated Haiti bikes and bike parts for the cause at his shop, Almonte Bicycle Works. Locals are rediscovering the joys and benefits of active transportation here in Ontario. Many a dusty 70's ten speed is arriving on Bill`s doorstep retrieved from our barn attics, basements and garages. Lovingly restored, Bill`s Bikes for Haiti are put up for sale with all proceeds going directly to help in Haiti, over $4000 this past year. Focus on Development continues its commitment of direct aid by dealing with community organizations that have a grass roots presence in Haiti. This fall, funds raised by the Focus on Development Bikes for Haiti program and personal donations from various other individuals covered this year’s school costs for 100 children in Mirebalais through the Haitian organization FATEM (Foundation for the Technological and Economic Advancement of Mirebalais).

If you are interested in helping to keep these children in school for the coming years, buy a Haiti bike from Almonte Bicycle Works, donate a bike or bike parts (please call first, 256-5282), or drop a financial contribution off at Almonte Bicycle Works, 101 Bridge Street, Almonte.

Coming in the fall of 2012, Focus on Development’s Bikes for Haiti in partnership with the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum is planning a first annual “Tweed Ride” as part of the Fibrefest and Doors Open celebration. This “fun and active” fundraiser planned for September 8th 2012 is a gentle bicycle ride that ties the golden age of cycling to the golden age of textile production in Almonte. The world’s first ever “Tweed Ride” was held in 2009 on the streets of London, England. Most major cities in the world now host benefit Tweed Rides. Stay tuned for more details.

In the meantime, dust off your two-wheeled steed and consider donating it to Bikes for Haiti or riding it in September’s Fibrefest 2012 Tweed Ride.

Financial contributions can be sent to Focus on Development, P.O. Box 967, Almonte ON. K0A 1A0.